Family Heart Advocate Daniel H.

Why I Race: My Story Could Have Been Different

My mother died of a heart attack when she was just 46 years old. It was the late 1960s, and I was a young kid – just 13 years old. At that time, we were only beginning to learn the connection between cholesterol and cardiovascular disease. Stents were still in development, and medical science was largely unaware that there could be a genetic cause of early heart disease and death.

I was not managing my LDL at all.

When I was in my 30s, I participated in a blood drive for the American Red Cross. After my donation, they sent me a nice postcard thanking me for my blood and warning me that my low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol was high. It was not just high it was extremely high, way above the recommended levels.

I immediately modified my diet, continued my exercise regiment, but my LDL numbers didn’t budge. So, I started taking the statin my healthcare provider prescribed to me. On those medicines, I experienced terrible muscle pains. I tried a few different ones and some supplements to help manage the pain, but I continued to be miserable. All in all, I was not managing my LDL at all.

Will I eventually need bypass surgery?

When I was 46 – the same age my mom was when she died of her heart attack – I had my first heart attack. I had blockages in nearly all of my arteries – some were 40% blocked, some were 70%. Others were 80, 90 and 100% occluded. I had angioplasty and 3 stents placed. After the doctor walked me through my results and drew a diagram of the damage to all my arteries, I asked, “With all these areas narrowing, will I eventually need bypass surgery?” He paused, looked me in the eye, and said, “Probably.”

April of 2023, his prediction came true.

I’m currently recovering from this major heart surgery, but I am still joining the fight in the Race to Save More Hearts. My 2 heart attacks and surgeries are the direct result of undiagnosed familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). It is a genetic disorder leading to extremely high levels of LDL cholesterol starting from birth. It runs in the family, and as a result, my sons also have FH. The difference for them? We know how to manage this disorder.

Family Heart Advocate Daniel H.

Through the Family Heart Foundation, and published clinical research studies, my family and I have learned that if you start treatment for FH early, you can lower or even eliminate the risk of heart attack, stroke, and related death. There are excellent medications available to safely and effectively lower LDL. Both of my sons are on a combination of two of these medications.

My story could have been different.

If the Family Heart Foundation had been around when I was in my 20s and 30s, my story could have been completely different. And there are thousands of stories like mine. That’s why I’ve committed to walking 10 miles a week during my cardiac recovery for my Race to Save More Hearts. Please help me support this organization whose sole purpose is to raise awareness, be a resource for education and where to find more answers to questions, and also to facilitate continued research about this very prevalent and under-diagnosed genetic disorder. With your help, I can help raise more money for the Family Heart Foundation than I ever could alone!

Family Heart Advocate Daniel H.Daniel H.
Advocate for Awareness
Family Heart Foundation

Daniel H. is a Family Heart Foundation Advocate for Awareness. If you're interested in joining the Family Heart Foundation as an Advocate click here to learn more.


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